Nothing quite prepares you for a first visit to Venezuela ― especially when the country is polarised between two very different visions for the future.
This is how it was just before the October 7 presidential elections, which socialist President Hugo Chavez won with 55% of the vote in the largest turnout, more than 81%, in Venezuelan history.
Members of the Australian solidarity brigade in Venezuela released the statement below on October 8.
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“We, members of the Australian solidarity brigade to Venezuela, congratulate socialist President Hugo Chavez on his re-election on October 7”, said Coral Wynter, an organiser of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 brigade. “We have seen Venezuela's unique participatory democracy system in action, and it works.”
The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network released the statement below on October 8.
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On the eve of the October 7, Venezuelan presidential election, Green Left TV's Peter Boyle spoke to Tamara Pearson (below), an Australian socialist who has been living in Venezuela since 2007. She writes for Venezuela Analysis and for Green Left Weekly.
Pearson lives in Merida but was in Caracas for the final stage of the election campaign and to help lead the 2012 Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade whose members are also there to witness this election campaign.
“Major U.S. business groups are stepping up pressure on President Barack Obama's administration to suspend longtime trade benefits for Ecuador, citing the Andean country's mistreatment of Chevron Corp as proof of a deteriorating investment climate”, Reuters said September 26.
“Washington has refused to extradite a former Bolivian president to the South American country to stand trial over political violence that forced him from office nine years ago”, Reutuers reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales said on September 7.
Bolivia wants former US-backed president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, known as “Goni”, to face charges over corruption allegations and for his role in the deaths of 63 people killed by security forces during the 2003 uprising that overthrew him.
Photos from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 Presidential Elections Brigade. The brigade's program kicked off with an introductory talk on Venezuelan history and politics by Dr Marcelo Alfonzo, Central University of Venezuela. Then visits to National Institute of Hygiene plant, a world leader in the manufacture of vaccines, the Bolivarian University, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) and the Latin American School of Medicine. Photos by Pip Hinman unless otherwise designated.
On our third full day of activity on the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) 2012 Presidential Elections Brigade we visited Sala de la Batalla Sociales, LA Communa. This is a grouping of 35 Community Councils in the barrio of Petare. We visited the community medical centre (where free health care is provided by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors), a community radio station and had an exchange with community council members. The commune of Petare is building a chocolate factory which will sit alongside a community university. Photos by Pip Hinman.
In Venezuela's October 7 presidential elections, the candidate leading the polls — President Hugo Chavez — is standing on a platform of pushing a socialist transformation.
Leaked documents show his main opponent, Henri Capriles Radonski, has a neoliberal agenda. But publicly he presents himself as a social democrat who supports pro-poor policies such as the Chavez government's health and education social programs.